Thursday, December 11, 2014

Born to Die

We are in the most celebrated season of the year.
While I love Christmas,  the lights, the glitter, the celebration with family and friends, I know that for those 'on the outside' Christmas can be a time of acute loneliness and pain.
I think we often forget that Jesus Himself came to be on the 'outside' - He was born to suffer and die. As He lay in the cradle, the cross hovered nearby.

We too know that death is a given that we will all one day experience, but we are also called to a 'living' death.  We are called to crucify those things that are of self  so that we can shine forth the love and life of Christ that indwells us.

The devotional for today from a book gifted to me by a friend was very insightful and I share it with you here - food for thought and self examination.
It was written by Thomas Watson who lived from 1620-1686.

Love Crucified 
"I have been crucified with Christ , it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Gal. 2:20 NKJV

He who loves God will have nothing to do with sin unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God's honor but also at His being.
Does he who loves his prince protect a traitor to the Crown?
Is he a friend to God who loves that which God hates?
The love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together. A man cannot love health and lvoe poison, too. He who allows any secret sin in his heart is as far from loving God as heaven and earth are distant one from the other.

He who is a lover of God is dead to the world. He who is in love with God is not much in love with anything else. The love of God and ardent love of the world are inconsistent. Love  to God swallows up all other love. When a man's heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are those things on earth below!

Will God ever bestow heaven upon them who so basely undervalue Him, preferring glittering dust before the glorious Deity? What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it?  The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception.

Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Our hands have handled"


my family - daughter, granddaughters and son-in-love

We recently celebrated the wedding of my son in law's sister.  My granddaughters were bridesmaids and my husband took the above photo of our daughter and family.  We have always lived near enough to each other that our close relationship was one we have treasured but also taken for granted.

Now things are about to change.
My  older granddaughter, who graduated from high school this summer and just celebrated her eighteenth birthday has chosen to go to school in Australia and will be leaving in a couple of months.
 I am happy for her to have the experience attending a Christian music school,  but my heart is also painfully aware of what separation from her will feel like.
I was thinking about it the other day and thought how fortunate we were to have so many ways to stay in touch with someone far away - e-mail, Facebook and Skype that allows voice/sight connections.   Yet somehow it didn't feel 'enough' in my emotions and I questioned myself, "Why not?"
The answer came almost immediately -- because as much as our technology offers, it does not allow 'hands on'.    I won't be able to touch her, hug her, kiss her, see her 'face to face'.

And suddenly I had a deeper insight into one of my favourite verses. -
I John 1:1 -  "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled..... "

This verse speaks to relationship with Jesus.
For some people it is only a very vague sense, or none at all, of some historical figure named Jesus.
For some, they have heard of Jesus' and  have some knowledge of His story.
Some have actually 'seen' Him as in recognizing that Jesus was born as a baby and grew up to give Himself in death on a cross to provide forgiveness of sin.
Then some have actually 'looked upon' Him, accepting Him as their personal Saviour so they can go to heaven when they die.
But then, there are those who 'handle Him' - they make Him their 'hands-on' focus on a daily basis. He is their go-to source of wisdom, of comfort, the one they depend on and trust  for guidance and direction. Their fellowship with Him is real and intimate.

None of the progressive levels of awareness of Jesus are enough  until there is the 'hands-on' relationship. Nothing less will satisfy.  Even so the beloved disciple, John, articulated in his letter. He 'handled' the Word. The Word took on flesh, became Jesus, like unto man, and John had the privilege of being so close to Jesus that he could touch Him and love Him and know Him in an intimate way - heart to heart, mind to mind, Spirit to spirit.

I am not satisfied with anything less either.


Friday, November 14, 2014

"And Jesus Stood ..."



Last Sunday, we had as invited guests in our morning church service,
 the veterans of a local Legion,
 who came with the pageantry associated with Remembrance Day. 
What stood out to me and played over and over in my mind was the part of the presentation when someone was instructed to read the names of the Legions' veterans who had died this year. 
The names were called out one by one, and then these words were spoken ..
"They do not answer, they do not answer."  

The words haunted me and in my mind I visualized a very different scenario. 

Every day there are estimated to be as many as 450 Christians who are martyred for their faith. 
Every day!
That is one every three minutes.
Are they forgotten? 

In my mind I see each one as they step over death's threshold into Life. 
Jesus rises to His feet, 
even as He did for the church's first martyr, Stephen, 
and He calls out their name. 
No need to turn to His Father and say ...
'They do not answer."  
For there is a joyous, victorious, answering cry,
 "I am here!" 
before they fall to their knees to worship the one for whom they  died. 

This Sunday* is International Day of Prayer 
for the Persecuted Christians.  
Will we remember those who die for their faith?
 Pray for those are are living in danger today, 
knowing that if they testify of their faith 
it could cost them everything they hold dear in this earthly life?   
Will we remember their families who are left trying to survive without their loved one - 
spouses left to be a single parent in difficult, even impossible situations, 
children who must now grow up without the love and guidance of one or both their  parents. 

We enjoy our freedom in the lap of luxury, how easy it is to forget the privilege that is ours.  
It is not our right, it could one day change and we too called to be faithful  in the face of martyrdom.  
Will someone pray for us ? 

   "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them
—those who are mistreated—
since you yourselves are in the body also." 
Hebrews 13:3

* There are several days in November given as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church, but the day we pray is not so important as that we remember to pray - every day. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

An Error Scan


I was running a software program today,  that searched my computer for errors causing my computer to not run as fast or efficient as it should.
My computer looked fine ... no problem on the outside.  It looks the same as the day I bought it, my monitor screen looks great - so by looking I could not see anything wrong.   Yet, the functions of my computer had become less than satisfying.  My screen would occasional freeze, the 'slowness' of my computer was to the point of being annoying.  I knew that there were errors that needed to be 'fixed'.

As the software searched for and found 'hidden' errors, it then revealed  the errors on my screen where I could see them.  There were many more than I would have guessed!

As I watched , I saw a spiritual lesson.

David said in  Psalm 139:23,24 
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; 
Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting." 


Pro 20:27 says, 
"The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, 
searching all the inward parts of the belly." 

If you read the above verses through the lens of a  computer scanning for errors, you can easily see how the two parallel.

We look good on the outside ... we might think all is well, and we along with others might be totally unaware of what  is 'invisible' deep within our heart.
However, if we invite God to search our inner being, the same way we run an error scan program, God will do it.
As He finds things, He will bring them to our mind's ' monitor screen' where  they are revealed for us to see.

The error scan's purpose was not to just show me what was wrong but also to enable me to fix what was wrong.
In the same way the Holy Spirit does not reveal or convict us of the hidden things of our heart to condemn us but He reveals because He desires  to restore and to heal and to forgive.
After the errors were revealed on my screen, I was shown a button I could click that said 'Fix Now",
God too has given us a way to 'fix' what is wrong in our heart.

Sin repented of is instantly forgiven/deleted, 
guilt can be washed away, 
anxiety/fear can be reprogrammed into love,
 'bugs'  that hinder us from running well can be eliminated, 
 weak links can be made strong, 
a shield can be set up to alert us to a virus (sin/temptation) attack.

"Thank you, Lord, for cleansing my heart, that I might be fit for your use!" 



Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Japanese Name

I spent some time recently with my granddaughters and their new Japanese student, Sumira.
The girls were practising Japanese 'letters' although Japanese writing looks more like art-strokes than that we would call 'letters'.

I asked Sumira how 'Julie' would be written in Japanese.   She wrote it out phonetically like this.

I learned that the Japanese have a very interesting, unique custom in how they choose/determine the written form of a given name at birth.  
Sumira explained that that the above phonetic writing of my name is not how I would write it if I was 'Japanese'.  Seeing my name written phonetically would tell the reader  that I was a foreigner. 
If I was born Japanese and my parents named me 'Julie', they would then choose from pages and pages of possibilities a Konji name.   If I understand it correctly -  it is like Julie having multiple ways of writing it each pronounced 'Julie' but each having a different meaning. 
Japanese parents with great care search out just the right Kongi name that will perfectly fit their child. 

I asked Sumira what my Konji name would be and she immediately showed me, on her iphone,  pages of Konji possibilities for 'Julie' and wanted me to choose one. I had no idea how to choose - they all looked complicated and meant nothing to me.  So I smiled and said "You choose one for me!"  
She thoughtfully searched the list going up and down.. stopping at one here and there, considering but then moving on.  Suddenly, she highlighted one, clicked on it and said confidently, "This one!" 
She showed me how to write it. 
 I asked her, "What does it mean?"
And she said, "Tree"  and "mountain".

I gasped...  She of course could not have known,  but those who know me well know that I have a deep love of trees! My son-in-law teases me that I take more photos of trees than anything else.
So it was very meaningful to me that Sumira, not knowing me at all, would choose for me the meaning of 'tree' and of course I live on a mountain... surrounded by mountains so that too was fitting.

One of my favourite scripture passages is the first Psalm where verse 3 says ..
 "He (she)  shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, 
That brings forth its fruit in its season, 
Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper."

Jeremiah 17:8  adds details to this picture comparing the one who loves God and His word to a tree.   
  For he (she)  shall be like a tree planted by the waters, 
Which spreads out its roots by the river, 
And will not fear when heat comes; 
But its leaf will be green, 
And will not be anxious in the year of drought, 
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 

What a beautiful picture this is !

We are planted -                God planted us and we are meant to grow !  
We are beside the water -  we are planted beside the water - so we can always drink deeply of the 
                                          Water of  Life 
We bring forth fruit --------fruit of the Spirit in character , and fruit as in  adding to the kingdom harvest. 
Our leaf shall not wither----in Christ we thrive in all areas of our life - nothing about us, nothing in our life is                                            in vain or not useful in God's hand for good! 
Our leaf will be green ----- there is no detail of our life that God is not concerned about and providing for -                                             not  one 'leaf 'will lose it colour!  
Our roots are spread out --what security we have when our faith is rooted deeply - no matter what                                                          happens we cannot be 'uprooted'. We will STAND.
We do not fear even when heat comes -- we have our roots in the Water of Life...  The heat of circumstance                                            or sorrow or persecution holds no terror for us. 
We will not be anxious in times of drought -  we are not anxious no matter what happens around us, it is no                                              threat to us. 
We do not cease yielding fruit -  God's purposes in us and through us will not cease - in Him we continue to                                             grow and be blessed and be a blessing to those around us ! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Update on my Sweet Peas

Earlier this year I wrote this post  on my planting of sweet pea seeds.  I promised to update when they bloomed, IF they bloomed.

A promise is a promise even if I keep it to my embarrassment!

Here is a photo of my sweet pea plants.  I envisioned the stick trellis my husband made for me to be hidden behind a profusion of leaves and blossoms begging to be picked into lovely bouquets.
Well, not quite!
 I kept it tucked up against my basket that overflowed its pot so that it could hide its spindly stems and sparse blossoms.
 I did enjoy my little hummingbird that found the few blossoms and drank their nectar.
 Hardly enough to satisfy -  offering at best only a few sips.

(hummingbird sitting behind the top lilac sweet pea) 

I was so disappointed.  I had watched over the little seedlings with care and as they grew watered and fertilized faithfully, but I finally had to admit that I had failed.

I went on line and typed in 'scraggly sweet peas' and I learned what my problem was and  then realized that even in my failure I could find a lesson.

I learned that sweet peas are not a plant that should be 'coddled'.  When the first sprouts begin to grow they must be pinched off to allow the secondary shoots to be dominate - they are the ones that will grow to produce the abundant flowers I was so hoping to enjoy.
I have never been a ruthless gardener - I tend to be a coddler.  I can never quite make myself follow the example of the expert gardeners who live on my street.  The minute a plant isn't thriving they dig it out, they cut back the good ones, they pinch back growth, prune and divide - and of course their gardens are lush and colourful.

My sweet pea lesson made me think of the passage  where Jesus speaks of the Father as being the Gardener who prunes the good fruit bearing branches so that they will bear more fruit.
I thought about how often we complain that God is not a 'coddler' gardener.  We don't understand when his pruning sheers cut into our life.   We cry and ask why.

But do we consider that God is no more satisfied with a scraggly plant than we are?   Is He sometimes 'ruthless' in bringing those things into our life that will cause us to thrive and overflow with blossoms or fruit?   Does He look for us to be the kind of plants that invite people to pick a bouquet and enjoy our fragrance -  or taste of the fruit of our love and compassion for them?

Next year I'm going to practice being ruthless .... and I have dared to ask God to be ruthless with me.  I don't want to be a 'scraggly plant' - I want to be one that covers the trellis God has built for me to climb on.

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit"   John 15:2

Friday, August 1, 2014

Photos and Thoughts Inspired by our Vacation

    We just came home from a family vacation in Whistler.  We had a wonderful time and there were things we experienced that led to moments of inspiration.
*********

     Unknown to us we 'happened' to arrive at Whistler on the day the first Ironman Triathlon was held in Whistler.  The last few miles into Whistler forced us to just slow down and enjoy being part of the event.
The Ironman Triathlon is the world's most gruelling race consisting of a 2 1/2 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, then concluding with a 26 mile run --  the allotted time is 17 hours - the winner completed it in 8  hours and 16 minutes.

At first we came upon a few riders, then more and more.




I was impressed by the number of people who  lined the roads to cheer on the bikers as they passed. 





Finally, we were able to access our townhouse (although later it was impossible to get  back out to main roads - they were closed to accommodate the bikers) 

After the bike ride of 112 miles was complete the athletes began their 26 mile run, which took them right past our townhouse, so we watched from the patio......



front door .....  
or 'ran with them' --   that is my husband in the black pants who started jogging beside one runner who  suggested he change places and finish the race for him. 


What impressed me more than the athletes themselves,  was the people who cheered them on.  
Even inside our townhouse we could hear the shouts of encouragement to the athletes as they passed.  These encouragers all along the route sat/stood for hours spurring the runners on to the finish.  

I thought about how we are called to that for each other in the 'race' of life running for the goal  - to cross the finish line to win the 'crown of eternal life'.   How encouraging it would be to have those around us committed to spurring us on, calling out words of praise and expressing confidence in our ability to finish... holding out 'bottles of water' to refresh us. 
**************

We also witnessed another interesting 'race' of different kind.   The race of the tiny toads from lake to forest where they will grow up. 



The tiny toads (smaller than a dime) having developed from tadpoles come out of the water and gather in piles along the lake shore.  About 25,000 will complete the migration race. 



A man-made barrier to protect them has been laid all along the lake shore to encourage the baby toads along a safe path from lake shore to the forest some distance away. 
A few  toads manage to escape and forge out on their own as this little guy did.  I  felt bad for him.  He had a hard road a head of him - with little chance of surviving or reaching his destination. 



How like us!    God has put up barriers - not to restrict us , but rather to make our journey safe. Yet, like the little toad we wiggle our way through the barrier and try to make our own way - and find that in the end it is to our own hurt and loss. 

********************

On our way home from Whistler we stopped at Squamish (one hour from Whistler)  to experience the new Sea to Sky gondola that takes you up to the top of The Chief mountain.  It is a 10 minute ride. 


At the top, is a cafe/shop/sitting areas and viewing platforms to take in the 360 degree views! 



Connecting the two viewing platforms is a swinging bridge. (the two blonde girls on the bridge are my grandgirls) 




While we were on top we experienced another 'first'.   The first wedding on top of The Chief. 

The 'aisle' for the bride was the swinging bridge and all traffic was halted so she crossed it alone to meet her groom waiting at the 'alter' with family and friends. 



As one who avoids swinging bridges -  I watched the bride crossing the swinging bridge, high above the ground -- and I thought about how often in life  we have to take 'risks' - letting go ... starting over .... making life changing decisions or choices. 
How much we value our 'goal' will determine how great a risk we are willing to take to get there.  

******************

God has created us emotional beings - we desire to love and be loved, to feel joy and fulfilment. 
 We are also created with a capacity and need to be WOWED -- to feel 'awe' because feeling 'awe' is meant to draw our thoughts to God. 
How often vacations are planned around the desire to enjoy God's creation. 
Here are a few photos I took that filled me with awe for the beauty God used to create His world to reflect the beauty of His character! 
















In spite of all we saw and experienced, the greatest gift God has given me is my family.  To share time and togetherness is what I treasure most.


Thank you, Father !!   
  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." 
James 1:17 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Face to Face With Jesus


(last night's glorious sunset)

    While I read a lot of books, I recommend comparatively few... but I recently read a book that I have put on my  'must read' short list.
    The book is called Face to Face With Jesus - by Samaa Habib with Brodie Thorne.
It is a the true story of Samaa Habib, the tenth and youngest child of a strict Muslim family in the Middle East. The story is captivating, inspiring, and makes you feel like you are reading a modern rendition of the book of Acts.
     The first chapter of the book tells of the horrific bombing of the church Samaa attended. Four bombs were planted by terrorists, Samaa standing right beside one of the bombs as it went off.  She was 'killed'.   You are left 'hanging' there as the story takes you back to the beginning of Samaa's life and then leads you back to the time of the church bombing.

     I hate to be a book spoiler so I will say no more, but if you want a good, true-life-experience, inspirational, can't put the book down,  kind of read I encourage you to read this book !

     If you aren't a reader, don't have time to read,  but you have an hour to spare to listen to her audio testimony, you can find a link here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Lesson from my Garden



If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes I would not have believed it !

As you can see in my photo there are two seed geranium plants growing side by side.
I bought them in spring from the same garden shop tray, all the same size and all equally healthy looking.  Obviously, they get the same amount of sun/rain and I water them if we have dry days back to back.   There is a reason I buy seed geraniums.   I don't have a green thumb so plants have to grow in spite of me, not because of me.  Seed geraniums are the most forgiving plant --  too dry, too wet, too much sun, too much shade they forgive it all and just do what they are supposed to do --BLOOM!  And I love them for that!

So this morning, not having taken note of them for a few days, I stopped, stood and stared - not really believing my own eyes!  Was it possible?  Why was one  plant huge and the other one so much smaller?    I puzzled over it for the rest of the morning.  Then, it came to me!  There WAS a logical reason.

The huge plant is situated so that the 'drip-through' of my hanging basket runs down to it and I fertilize my hanging basket regularly.  On the other hand, I  neglect the seed geraniums... since they are growing and blooming just fine,  or so I THOUGHT until this morning when I saw what they COULD have all been by now.

Immediately, I saw the vivid spiritual lesson.

Why do some believers grow in the faith faster than others?   Why do some people accept salvation and then struggle along and never reach a strong maturity in their spiritual journey,  never grow in their knowledge of God's ways,or  in their understanding of a personal relationship with Him, never seem to change in how they relate to others in actions or reactions.
They look 'fine' in the sense that they are quick to acknowledge that they are a believer, there are 'flowers blooming'   is fruit in their life, but when you compare them to the 'giants' of faith they suddenly look pretty puny.  What makes the difference?

I think the answer may be quite simple.   You have heard the expression 'location, location, location' ?  As a believer your 'location' is everything.
Do you situate yourself where God's word regularly 'drips/pours' into your life?
Do you pray 24/7 in conversation with God and not just run to Him when you have a need/want/request?
Do you surround yourself with fellow believers, letting them invest into your life? Do their faith/experiences/wisdom run-over into your life?  Do you let them encourage/inspire you?
Is gathering together with other believers to study God's Word and worship together something you do only when and if it is convenient and doesn't conflict with other priorities?
Are you careful what you fill your mind with?
Do you enjoy the things of the world and the environment/entertainment the world offers?  or do you seek out the godly things and places that please God?

Here are some scriptures that speak of  the 'location' we are to choose that will determine whether or not we will be a 'mega-Christian'  or a 'puny-Christian'.
  
Jude 21 -    Stay always within the boundaries where God's love can reach and bless you.
1Peter 2:2  -  As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,"
1Th 5:17  - Pray without ceasing, 
1Jn 2:15  -  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
Heb 10:25 -  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 
1Co 16:13  -  Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  
2Ti 2:15  -  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 
Eph 4:15  - But,    speaking the truth in love, (you)  may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—
Php 4:8 -   Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Free Will - Love it ? or Hate it?


Have  you ever thought about how free will is like our computer ?   If it works, I love it... but if it crashes, freezes, loses my stuff or gets a bug or virus I hate it!

Don't we have the same attitude about 'free will' ?   If is serves our desires or purposes, we love to have it - but let anything go wrong and we are so quick to blame God with accusations and questions about why He allowed something or didn't do something to stop it.

I was taught a 'lesson' on my patio this week.  
I love sweet peas. My mom always grew them when I was growing up and to gather a bunch of the delicate, ever so fragrant blossoms to bring into the house was always my delight.
I don't have a green thumb, things grow in spite of me, not because of me!   Having tried to grow sweet peas before and failed, I had given up,  but this year I found a new seed that had a protective coating around it to help it sprout and grow.   I thought, for a couple of dollars, it was worth a try.   As you can see the seeds did sprout and I have some promising shoots.  
I have carefully tended them, watered them - not too much, not too little - fertilized them and knowing they need something to climb on, I leaned them on skewers and provided them with a garden mesh to wrap their tendrils on and climb, hopefully to the very top !  

The other day as I was tucking the mesh close to each shoot and gently encouraging the short tendrils to reach out for the mesh, I wondered.... is that what God does for us ?

My sweet peas have free will ... they can grow or not, bloom or not or they can just refuse to climb.  I can't MAKE them grow.   But what I can do is encourage them to grow , I can provide for them everything they could need.   I watch over them, every day checking to see if their tendrils are long enough yet to reach out. I hope every day that they have found my mesh.    I know how excited I will be the day I see them begin to twist and twirl their way up the mesh and then one day cover it with a profusion of blossoms.  

God has given man free will and in giving it He has to stand back and let man do what man will do.  He hovers, encourages, puts up props, blesses us with good things .... but He cannot - by His own will - force us to do contrary to our own wilful desires.  When men are evil, when bad things happen, it isn't God's fault -  its man flexing his free will muscles to his own hurt and the harm of others. When man makes bad choices/decisions we all pay the price and suffer the consequences but it is not God who caused it nor God's responsibility to stop man from doing what he wills.
How patient and gracious is our God - and so desirous of our free will offering of love and devotion to Him - that He puts up with us.   There is nothing He will not do to 'help' us grow the way He wants us to - the way that will permeate  the sweetness of Jesus' fragrance in us and through us for others to enjoy.

"Oh, Lord, let me be a 'sweet pea'  blooming in your kingdom."

PS...  When my sweet peas blossom , I will update this post !- I have faith, (I think!)  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kind Justice

Some of you may have seen this story in the news recently.

 As I saw the video and read the story  , my thoughts led me to realize how often man will judge rightly on one level but question God's judgement on another.

I believe the reaction of most people to the story would include the following:
1.  to feel a love/appreciation for the cat!  As I said to my husband after seeing the story ..."That cat just bought himself life-insurance to live out his life in luxury!"
2. to feel sorry for the little boy...  who was  not only physically hurt, but  also had his sense of security and safety stolen from him.
3. to hope that justice will be done by the dog being put down (as it was)  The risk of the dog repeating his aggression against a child is simply too high !   What an animal does once will most probably be repeated.

If someone took the side of the dog, we would most certainly be aghast.   We might wonder why this dog would have this aggressive trait, and we might regret that he does,  but we would not be willing to give the dog another chance to harm another child.   The balancing scales of  justice would definitely dip on the weightier side of a child over an aggressive dog.
 Euthanizing the dog is justice --  protecting (preventing)  further victims is kind.

If the aggressive dog in our story was brought to trial by his 'peers' how would his lawyer plead his case?   Not guilty ?  Temporary insanity ?   A dog doing what comes naturally?   Every dog deserves a second chance?    Euthanasia a cruel and unusual punishment?

Many people see God in the Old Testament as a  God that advocated violence.
Is that really the true perspective?
In the fantasized court room described above where is the determining focus ?  On the innocent victim or on the one who is without question  guilty ?
On the guilty one, is it not ?

Are we often guilty of the same ?    We judge according to our own perspective and inclinations -  judging according to our own sinful nature, looking for reasons to excuse ourselves,  rather than focusing on God's wiser and infinitely greater sense of  righteous justice.
We consider ourselves good judges of what is right concerning the aggressive dog and would never accept the arguments of the dog-court ruled by  self-judgement,  and yet, how often do we question God's judgements?

There is a verse that so aptly describes God's heart intent  as He laid out Moses'  law that was to govern His nation of people.
1Ti 1:5  "Now the purpose of the commandment is love......."   
This purpose/character trait of God is echoed in Jesus words when He said that loving God and your neighbour was what the whole law was built  on ... Mat 22:40  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." 
Paul  grasped the concept and repeated it here... Gal 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 

God, as the Creator of man understands the heart/thoughts/ways of man and can make the judgements that will protect His people  but will also provide a strong deterrent for those who need boundaries to keep them from actions that would hurt , not only others, but themselves as well.
He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but He will not risk the innocent for the sake of the guilty. He will never allow room for evil to grow to where it destroys  the good.
While we tend to stand in the 'here and now'  and judge according to our own selfish inclinations ,  God looks down the corridor of time and sees the far reaching consequences of man's actions and He judges  in favour of the ones whose hearts are open to Him .  Obedience to His commandments will ensure  that those who love Him will  live in safety under the blessings He desires to pour out upon them. Free will allows also for disobedience that God must deal with for the sake of the obedient.

Next time you read a story in your bible that speaks of God's judgement and you are tempted to think it harsh, - stop and consider --  examine it from God's perspective and find God's intent of 'kindness' in His  righteous judgements on those who have made wicked, willful  choices to disobey God's law of love.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

For everything there is A Time ..... is there a time to rant??


I looked over the 'for everything a time'  list in Ecc.3:1-8  and did not find a listing for a 'time to rant', but I thought maybe "a time to throw away'   came close enough!

I have something in my kitchen   that   aggravates me every time I use it, which is most every day.
We bought new appliances when we moved nine years ago and I have been happy with them except for one feature on my stove !  The built-in timer !!
It makes no logical sense to me !

If I set the timer to one minute, no problem - I set it to the "1" and the number display immediately slips to  59 seconds and the count down follows to zero.    BUT, if I set it to any other number of minutes  then when I look at the timer display it always shows one less minute than what is left.
If, for example, I set it to 20 minutes, after one sec the display flips to 19 and counts down from there so that when it shows "1" minute left there are actually TWO minutes left  ... because the one minute shows for a whole minute before it starts the final minute at 59 down to 0 to  activate the buzzer !

OK, I know since I know how it works, that I just add one minute in my mind and don't let it bother me, right ?? NO!!   It bothers me every single time I set the timer because is just isn't RIGHT !!
****

I love the story found in John 1:43-51.  It is the story of Nathanael - whose name means "given of God".
John tells how  Philip encountered  Jesus  and heard His words, "follow me!"
Philip's  first thought was to seek out his  good friend Nathanael to share the exciting news.   Obviously they must have spent time discussing the prophecies of the Old Testament, because without any introduction Philip blurts out .."We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Nathanael responded out of his knowledge of the scripture,  "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"   
Philip knew seeing was believing for Nathanael and simply replied... "Come and see."
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to ward Him, Jesus said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" 
Nathanael asked the obvious question in his mind ... "How do You know me?"   and  Jesus answered..."Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."   
Nathanael's response is rather amazing.   While Philip spoke of Jesus as the One who was to come...  Nathanael  dared to call him God ... "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 

Jesus marvelled at his faith and asked ... "Because I said to you , 'I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?  You will see greater things than these. Most assuredly I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." 

While only John speaks  of Nathanael by name in this one account , I believe it is recorded because it holds a message for us. There is something we can learn from Nathanael.
Jesus liked him and paid him a high complement -  that he was without guile!   What does that mean?
It means that Nathanael was someone who was honest, forthright -- what you see is what you get...  no beating around the bush,  no filtering of thoughts before they are spoken, no guessing where you stand with him.
Nathanael spoke his mind .... expressed his honest doubts but was  also quick with a  ready acceptance of the truth when he saw it !

God desires honesty in our inner self ...  that we are open, without hiding behind a mask or a pious fa├žade.   We cannot hide from God.... so why try ?  

If people look at us , do they have to guess what the 'numbers on our screen'  really mean ? or do they see our face reflecting our heart and find our words to be honest and true ?

"Given of God"   -  a  beautiful name meaning that speaks of us walking in the 'image of Him' to whom we belong.    May the Lord say of us ... "A child of mine who is without guile!" 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Details


We are once again about to celebrate the anniversary of  Jesus' Death and Resurrection, an event that even after 2000 years has not been forgotten.
There were so many  significant details fulfilled on this week-end so long ago.   Details spoken about or portrayed prophetically in the Old Testament  that were  fulfilled literally by Jesus.

I'd like to note a few that you may or may not be familiar with.

1.  Jesus Robe ---   We read in   Joh 19:24  "They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be," that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "THEY DIVIDED MY GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS." Therefore the soldiers did these things." 

Why was it important that Jesus' robe not be torn ?
God commanded the following regarding the High Priests robes... Exo 28:32  There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear. 

Note that it was reinforced around the opening so that even tearing it  by accident would be prevented.
But why?  
In Lev. 10:6 , Moses gives Aaron the stern warning of the Lord.  If a High Priest 'tears his garment' he will die and the wrath of God come upon him.   A High Priest who tore his garment disqualified himself from being High Priest.

At the time of Jesus we know that Caiaphas was the High Priest, even though he was not a descendent of Aaron.  Nevertheless, when he in Matt. 26:65, in a rage, tore his garments he not only disqualified himself but condemned himself to God's wrath.
Never again would there be a High Priest in the physical temple.
Jesus was the forever High Priest -   His garment was NOT rent !  

2. Who killed Jesus ?  
Over the millennia there has been the back and forth accusing debates about who killed Jesus.
There is really only one answer.

In the very first Passover,  God did not kill the lamb,  the Eyptians did not kill the lamb.   It was each Israelite, a sinner in need of a Savior,  that had to kill his own lamb -- the lamb whose blood on the  doorframe would save him!
So also at the cross,  it was the sinners who killed Jesus ...  you and I killed Him.   It was our sin that put Him on the cross.
I John 3:16 says that Jesus lay down His own life.  When Pilate asked Jesus if he did not know that he had power to crucify Him or set Him free , Jesus answered him that he had no power at all! Joh 19:11  Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. "
Except for your sin and mine, Jesus would not have had to give His life to save us.

3. What made Jesus finally answer Pilate when Pilate questioned him?
We know from John's epistle that Pilate was getting frustrated with Jesus because He remained silent and did not respond to his comments John 19:10 "Are you not speaking to me?...."
  We have an added detail in Luke's account in Luke 23:3 when Pilate asked him point blank .. "Are you the King of the Jews?"  and Jesus answers him ...   "It is as you say."
What made Jesus answer the question when it was worded that way?    If Jesus had not answer Pilate, Jesus would have been guilty under the law and no longer 'sinless'.  If He had not answered it would have disqualified Him as the sinless Lamb of God !
See the law stated in Lev 5:1  'If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt."
The way Pilate worded his question, it was in the form of an oath and because Jesus had 'first hand' knowledge of what the answer was, He was obligated under the law to answer.   

4. Why did the Jewish leaders  want Pilate to change the wording on the 'title' Pilate wrote to hang on the cross?
When the Jews saw that Pilate had written "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews"   they were offended and requested that he change it to "he said I am King of the Jews" ...  but Pilate refused!  - John 19:19
Why did they want it changed ?   There was a very significant reason why they wanted it changed. When an educated Jew looked at the sign written in Hebrew,  he would be struck with the acrostic of the first letters of each word - King of the Jews)  ..    Put together, the letters were YHWH ...   Yahweh,  the name by which the Jews knew their  God.   So to them the sign was blasphemous ... "Jesus of Nazareth, God"
We do not know if Pilate understood what he had written , but we know God did !
He spoke to His people even from the cross ---  "You have crucified Me, your God" .

5. What does it mean that Jesus "made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death' ?
In Isaiah 53:9 we have this very specific prophecy about the Messiah.  
In hindsight it is easy to understand.  Jesus died, hanging on a cross between two wicked men.
But then a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea, obviously a man of influence, asked  for and received permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus.  He buried Jesus in his own, new unused sepulchre.
The prophecy, so seemingly contradictory, perfectly fulfilled!  Jesus died as a criminal, yet was buried in a rich man's tomb!


I wish you, my dear reader, 
a reflective Good Friday and a glorious Resurrection Sunday ! 
"He is risen !!  He is risen indeed !"   
and we are saved !!   





Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Dreams

One night last week I had a dream.
I dreamed that I was in a crowd of people and they were all moving and acting as if in some kind of trance or robotic state.  I remember looking at a few people standing to my right and they all lifted their arms in the air at the same time for no apparent logical reason.
Then I awoke , not remembering the dream in details the way I usually remember dreams.  What was strong on me and remained was the intense feeling of what it was like to act according to a controlling power.
I thought the dream a little strange and even though it impacted me, I did not think it was a dream from the Lord.
Then ..
The next night I dreamed the same dream with the same emotion heavy upon me upon waking in the morning.
Having the same dream twice was unusual so I prayed  asking the Lord to show me what it meant if there was something I was supposed to learn from the dream.
Then the third night I dreamed the dream again,  except this time, in the dream, I asked what the dream meant.
I was given ... "There is no power"
Somewhat puzzled I asked, "Then what is the moral of the dream?"
I was given ... "While there is no power forcing people to do what they do,  if they believe there is a power then it is the same as if there was."
***
I will not forget the feeling of that 'power' that permeated my dream. I felt the convincing control it had over people, so convincing that the people did not question it, in fact, seemed unaware of it.
When I awoke from the third dream I understood the meaning of it.

People have forgotten the God-given authority  of free will that every man has. That free will trumps any other power that would control us. Yet people so often submit to whatever promises them an easy way out or they give in/give up believing that what is confronting them is too big for them to overcome.
Often, believing there is a 'power' preventing them from attaining what they need or desire leads to despondency or depression.  Doesn't God's Word say, "Resist the devil and he will FLEE from you!"? James 4:7

How often do we , even as believers, give in the feeling/belief that we do not have the courage or strength or ability to stand against every lie or deception of the enemy.
Yet Ps. 53:5 says ... "There they were in great fear where no fear was...."  Why?? because God had destroyed the enemy but they did not yet believe that the enemy was rendered powerless.
Do we really believe Jesus' words ... "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed !" ? John 8:36
Would Jesus tell us something that isn't true ?
If we really believed that would we even fear being controlled by any other power ?
Freedom!  How sweet is the sound of that word, and freedom is what Jesus promised that His children have!
We are free -- free to make the choices we know are the right ones, free to pray and believe God will intervene in the situations/needs we bring before Him,  free to think God's thoughts,  free to walk in thankfulness , free to make a difference in the world we touch.

The only thing that can defeat us is believing that there is a power preventing us from attaining all that God has promised and desires to bring into our life.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Forgiveness Bouquet


While I read with a passion, there are some books that  leave a deposit in my spirit that lingers and grows and changes me in some way.
I recently read a book by Michael Phillips that touched me deeply.

The story centres on a waif of a child, older than she looked who was 'different' in a way that made the villagers , adult and children alike , ridicule her and torment her with words and even daring to lay physical abuse upon her.



This child learned to be content with her own company and spent the hours of her childhood roaming the hills and fields surrounding her country home. In God's nature, she learned to know the heart of the God she loved and understood in the innocent ways of a child untarnished by worldly influence. She loved the sea, the sky and all of God's creatures.

When someone would hurt her with cruel words or actions,   she gave no counter response, not even in word, but would run to her secret favourite places where she would stoop again and again until she had gathered a  bouquet of wild flowers.   Tying them together with a string she would slip unnoticed back into the village to the cottage where the one lived who had hurt her and  would hang this bouquet above the door.
 It was her "forgiveness bouquet".  

The story threads through her life and the lives of those she touched and the lives of those whose character was changed because of her gentle, quiet wisdom and heart of forgiveness that could not be argued against.

If we all practised 'forgiveness bouquets'  instead of retaliation, instead of carrying grudges or allowing our hearts to be  filled with resentment and desire for retribution, would our world not be a radically different place ?  The change beginning with our own hearts, our own homes, our own neighbourhoods , reaching out into our world.  
Is that not the kind of hearts Jesus seeks ?

Our God IS a God who forgives .. over and over again ... and who among us does not need or desire His forgiveness?   And yet we sometimes forget how important forgiveness is to God. He watches to see how easily and quickly  we forgive those who hurt us.
Mar 11:25,26  "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." 
Mat 6:14  "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."  
Luk 17:4  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." 

Does God not care if we are hurt ?  Ohh.. yes.. but He does not want US to have to carry the burden of unforgiveness which is like a cancer that eats at us from the inside out and robs us of the joy and blessings that God desires to pour out upon us. And unforgiveness cannot remain hidden, it will also hurt those we live with and love.
God wants us to trust Him to make all rights right,  not only in our own life and heart but also in the hearts and lives of those who are not yet His. How often undeserved/unexpected forgiveness is the key to a locked relational door.

We are approaching  the Passover/Easter season. It is a time to reflect and think about what God did for us in sending Jesus to provide for us the ultimate forgiveness we could not obtain at any lesser price than what He paid for it -  His life.
The forgiveness of God  unlocked the door, tore the veil,  that stood between us and intimacy in relationship with Him !   How precious, how  powerful indeed is forgiveness !
*****
The name of the book I read, and highly recommend,  is From Across the Ancient Waters and the sequel  The Treasure of the Celtic Triangle.  by Michael Phillips